Cayetano's Transit Plan: Back to the Future

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Instead of being a candidate running against something, Ben Cayetano is now a candidate running for something.

On Thursday the mayoral hopeful and former Hawaii governor unveiled a comprehensive traffic solution plan that includes as its centerpiece an express bus rapid transit system, or BRT.

The plan, called FAST — "flexible, affordable, smart transportation" — also calls for added traffic lanes on two major arterials, improved synchronization of traffic signals, short underpasses at three Kapiolani Boulevard intersections and a two-mile elevated, reversible Nimitz Highway flyover.

You can read the full plan here.

Cayetano's support for BRT is not new. He's been singing its praises for months now, and he blames local media for not paying enough attention. Nor is his campaign platform solely focused on ending the $5.26 billion Honolulu rail system.

But Cayetano's FAST plan shows the candidate shifting his campaign into a new and perhaps final phase that he hopes to ride to victory Nov. 6.

Cayetano plans 10 community presentations about FAST over the few weeks, and he will no doubt talk up his plan during televised debates Wednesday on KITV (co-sponsored by Civil Beat) and Thursday on PBS Hawaii — the only televised debates between Cayetano and opponent Kirk Caldwell before the election.

With the rail project stalled because of a lawsuit and with federal funding on hold until after the election, the FAST plan gives Cayetano something fresh to talk about and the edge in leading political dialogue. In fact, the candidates have already begun to talk more about things like sewer and water systems.

Cayetano is both looking backwards — BRT has previously been seriously considered by Honolulu mayors — and to a future that he says is moving away from fixed rail systems and toward things like driverless cars. The plan will be coupled with what Cayetano calls "common sense policies" like telework programs, staggered work hours and greater flex time.

In a sign that Caldwell is concerned, his campaign released a statement Thursday that called FAST "a last minute, half-baked plan that is driven more by politics than by trying to solve Honolulu's serious traffic congestion."

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